Food Cravings: 6 Tips For Avoiding And Responding
Food Cravings: “Why do I have no self-control when it comes to bad foods?” is a common question a person could ask after making the rash decision to eat junk food. It is especially true if you have a specific objective, such as eating healthier, losing weight, or avoiding certain foods for medical reasons.
For example, someone with hypertension may find it difficult to resist the urge to eat salty foods. It’s tough to grasp why self-control is difficult in certain situations despite one’s best intentions and goals.
Food cravings are one of the reasons why people eat unhealthy meals that aren’t part of a healthy diet. Food cravings are a strong desire to eat a specific type of food. People’s food cravings are unique, but they are often focused on foods heavy in salt, sugar, and saturated fat.
–A Brief Overview of Food Cravings
The healthiest vegetables, such as kale or broccoli, are rarely the source of a food need. It can trace the cause of cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods back to evolution. Eating meals high in fat and sugar whenever available has always been important in preventing famine and extinction, especially when food was rare. Even though this is no longer the case in today’s world, food cravings persist as a result of evolution.
It’s vital to remember that physiological hunger and food cravings are not the same things. Actual hunger is a physiological response to the body’s natural desire for sustenance. On the other hand, food cravings are frequently triggered by an emotional need, boredom, or exposure to a specific environmental cue or trigger.
–So Why Do Food Cravings Happen?
From a neurobiological standpoint, food cravings are linked to the brain’s reward system. The hypothalamus is one of the primary participants in the rewarding process, even though other brain areas are involved. Although food cravings are widespread, their intensity and frequency are determined by the interaction of several neurological, physical, emotional, and psychological aspects.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the hypothalamus that transmits happy feelings linked to receiving a reward. Higher dopamine activity is stimulated by the expectation of positive feelings from the food one is about to ingest.
Additionally, when a food craving is satisfied, dopamine-rich positive sentiments grow. The reward expected from the craving grows as the same item is consumed more frequently over time. Eating high-fat, high-sugar, or high-salt foods more frequently over time causes the brain to generate more feel-good hormones, reinforcing the need.
Other addictive behaviors, such as gambling, smoking, and substance abuse, are driven by the same substances. Physical factors such as lack of sleep and dehydration can all contribute to the emergence of food cravings. Finally, emotional issues such as increased stress levels can play a role.
6 Tips For Avoiding Unhealthy Food Cravings
Listed below are six ways to curb and better respond to food cravings:
- Balance Your Macronutrients
- Stay Hydrated
- Get 7-9 Hours of Sleep
- Take a Mindful Movement
- Change Your Environment
- Reduce Your Levels of Stress
1. Balance your macronutrients –
keeping your macronutrients in check is critical. Food cravings can be influenced by a lack of critical macronutrients, such as protein because the body believes it is not getting enough of the nutrients it requires. Instead, focus on getting adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. It will make you feel satisfied and full, which will help you avoid cravings in the future.
2. Stay hydrated –
Not drinking enough water, like not obtaining enough important macronutrients, can lead to increased food cravings. Its because dehydration affects serotonin levels in the brain. Low serotonin levels can reduce satiety and enhance the desire to eat sugary and salty meals, such as carbs. If you’re active or pregnant/nursing, try drinking at least eight glasses of water daily.
3. Get 7-9 Hours of Sleep –
Sleep deprivation affects the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite and hunger. The hunger hormone is ghrelin, while the hormone that makes us feel full and content is leptin. Ghrelin levels rise when we don’t get enough good sleep, defined as seven to nine hours of sleep every night. At the same time, leptin levels drop, making it difficult to maintain portion control.
4. Take a Mindful Moment –
It’s critical to pause for a moment and think about the food urge. To begin, determine if you are experiencing actual hunger or a food urge. Second, take a minute to understand where the yearning is coming from and if you want to act on it. Investigating the origins of the urge might be beneficial.
Was it the atmosphere you were in or a social media commercial that prompted it? Is it out of boredom or in response to a stressful or emotional situation? Self-awareness of these aspects may help reduce cravings or lead to the selection of a better meal alternative.
5. Change the Environment –
Before acting on the food need, consider altering your environment and diverting your focus to something else. It may assist in the reduction of the desire. Go for a stroll or do something you love to change your surroundings. If you still need these activities, you’ll make a more deliberate rather than impulsive decision to gratify. Similarly, be aware of the locations and situations in which you are more inclined to make bad dietary decisions. To avoid future desires, try to limit your exposure to these scenarios.
6. Reduce Stress Levels –
Food cravings can increase in intensity and frequency as stress levels rise. The greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol are to blame for this. It’s critical to respond to stress healthily rather than allowing food desires to become a maladaptive or harmful stress response. It may use a variety of activities to manage stress healthily.
If you haven’t been able to reduce your food urge after using the tactics described above, consider reacting to it in moderation. Allowing yourself a tiny piece of what you crave is one method to achieve this. The most crucial aspect of this strategy is to consume the food item in moderation.
If you follow this method, be sure you know what that means in terms of frequency (for example, allowing yourself to indulge in a specific urge once a week) and quantity size. This step will assist in satisfying the need and reducing the possibility of bingeing on it excessively.